A group of Algerian journalists arrived in Israel on Sunday for an unprecedented visit at the government's invitation, reported Haaretz, quoting a spokesman at the foreign ministry.
"There are no relations at all between the two countries," spokesman Sarid Shiron said.
"Algeria is an Arab country, a member of the Arab league. This delegation of journalists will get to know Israel, its peace process and its policies toward the Arab world."
Diplomatic sources said the visit was a significant but sensitive step for Israel and Algeria, who were secretly working on bettering relations, reported Reuters, quoting a source as saying.
"There are secret contacts between the two countries and the foreign ministry arranged this visit secretly," the source said. "Some of the journalists' lives were threatened in an attempt to keep them from coming to Israel, but they came anyway."
Algeria has long been at the forefront of the Arab world's anti-Israel sentiment, but French Jewish leader, Henri Haidenberg, said on June 17th that Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had indicated he was ready to recognize Israel.
Haidenberg, who spoke with Bouteflika for over an hour in France, said the Algerian president would forge official relations once Israel made peace with the Palestinians and Syria, said Reuters.
Asked if the visit signaled a thaw in the chilly diplomatic relations between the two countries, Shiron said, "I think it's premature to talk about that, but we're happy they're here."
The journalists will meet with foreign minister, David Levy, and will visit the Knesset, where they will meet with speaker, Avraham Burg and other parliamentarians, said Haaretz.
According to the paper, they are due to participate in a conference at the Truman Institute in Tel Aviv on Israeli-Algerian relations.
In September 1994, an Algerian journalist visited Israel on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Oslo agreement between Israel and the PLO. Since then, however, there has been little direct contact between the Algerian press and Israel, according to Haaretz – (Several Sources)
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